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How to Get & Watch TV in a Motorhome
Whether you holiday or live in your motorhome or caravan, being able to watch television is probably a necessity. You may not watch much, but when it’s raining or you fancy a duvet day, being able to curl up with your motorhome tv is one of life’s pleasures.
After five years on the road, we’ve put together all our tips to create a guide which has all the information you need on how to set-up and get tv in a motorhome or campervan, whether you’re travelling in the UK or venturing to Europe and beyond.
If you are holidaying in your motorhome or caravan, you may not want the expense of a satellite dish and the subsequent ongoing costs of maintaining a subscription tv service.
If you are overwintering, heading off on a long motorhome tour of Europe or living in your motorhome, and happy to have some one-off and ongoing costs, then there are a number options for getting and watching tv in your motorhome or caravan.
Types of Motorhome TVs
Specially designed and manufactured motorhome and caravan tvs are powered by 12v electric from your leisure battery. These 12v motorhome, caravan (and boat) tvs are built for low power consumption and to work without needing EHU and are robust enough to ensure the constant movement of your motorhome does not cause any damage, although you will need to store your remote control when on the move (Fiamma have great storage pockets which are perfect for remotes!).
You will find an array of screen sizes, types and options including flip-down, wide-screen, ability to record, one button tuning, ultra slim, with built- in DVD and so on.
The ideal type and size is probably around a 19 or 22 inch 12v tv. Any larger and it will crowd your small living space. Any smaller and you may be squinting to see, unless you’re in a small van.
The sound quality can vary between makes and models and some manufacturers also make sound bars. If you want more oomph without the price, you could connect to a bluetooth speaker like this Which? choice Sony water resistant portable bluetooth speaker (and its tiny!).
Motorhome and camper tv’s have been designed with small and awkward layouts in mind. Consider where and how you will install your tv for the best wide viewing angles, sound and wiring for power. You may need a specialised locking bracket like this one but some people dismount their tv’s for travelling.
You do not need a 12v tv for your motorhome, but you won’t be able to watch a 240v tv without EHU unless you have an inverter fitted, which converts the power coming from your 12v leisure battery to 230 volt.
TV via a Smart TV
Smart tvs have built in digital receivers, such as free-to-air Freeview or Freesat, and various apps which allow you to stream directly to your tv. A true smart tv will allow you to download thousands of apps to your tv without restriction. Some ‘smart’ tvs may need wifi or a 4g connection to watch, but you are limited to restricted to the apps, which are generally pre-loaded.
Read descriptions carefully to ensure you get the best smart tv for your motorhome. Check that the apps you will use most are included, or the tv is a full smart tv, if having a wide choice of apps in important. Always buy a recognised brand, where you can be assured that the tv software, or firmware, is regularly updated.
You will need to connect your smart tv to a wifi network so will require a wifi set-up in your motorhome or camper van, you can find out more about this in our guide to getting internet and Wifi in your motorhome.
Best 12v TVs for Motorhomes
There are a bewildering array of motorhome tv’s on the market at any given time, and as technology and manufacturing move at a fast pace, anything we recommend will quickly be out of date, or replaced with a newer model.
We have chosen Avtex TV’s for our motorhomes because of all the manufacturers, their build, picture and sound quality is the best, and this is validated by the reviews they receive.
Their super slim design and almost edge to edge picture on the smart range (which are full HD smart tvs) gives a stylish look, added to which they have been making motorhome televisions for over 25 years.
The other big name in motorhome televisions, Cello are a more budget brand. Their range of Traveller tvs is focussed on the motorhome and boat market and feature regulators to allow for battery fluctuations, although they don’t offer a fully smart tv right now.
If price point is more important than quality, then Cello is a great brand for a motorhome tv.
Motorhome TV Extras
This Vision Plus Double Arm TV Bracket is not only great for mounting your tv in your motorhome, but it has a really nifty quick release and mount button. Perfect if you like to stow your tv when travelling, or share your tv between house and motorhome.
TV via a Roof Mounted Satellite Dish
Many new motorhomes and caravans will have the option to come fitted with a roof-mounted satellite dish.
Satellite dishes vary in make, size and type. Some will operate from your 12v system with a quick press of a button inside your motorhome to lift the dish up and down, and some will require hand-cranking.
A self seeking satellite dish will find the correct satellite signal according to your selection. The larger ones will give you a better range, with 85cm dish giving you satellite tv across much of Europe.
You need a digital receiver to enable you to watch satellite tv in your motorhome; some receivers are integral to your tv and some are mounted in your van. Most separate receivers will need some sort of a card, usually linked to a subscription service, although do research this as technology moves at a fast pace.
A good alternative is to get your motorhome tv on Sky with your Sky box from home. If you have a Sky subscription, you can move your box into your van and connect it to your satellite set-up – no need to tell them you’re taking your box overseas!
Good alternatives to Sky TV are Sky Go on a laptop (but you can’t mirror Sky Go to a tv), or use the Now TV app.
The receiver you choose will depend on the type of tv you want to watch. It is advisable to have any satellite tv equipment fitted by an expert, they will be able to advise you on the options available.
Satellite tv for motorhomes is the most expensive option, with an 85cm all-singing, all-dancing dish (the largest available) and external digital receiver bought and fitted in the UK costing around £2500.
Alternatively, search motorhome forums to find out about having a dish fitted abroad when you’re travelling, it may be a cheaper option.
Or, if you’re handy with DIY and understand motorhome and campervan tv systems and motorhome electrics, you could fit on of these Maxview B2590/85 Crank Up Roof Mounted 85cm Satellite Dish Systems yourself.
TV via a Portable Satellite Dish
You could also consider a portable satellite dish which you set-up on arrival. You do need a clear line of sight for this equipment (so not suitable for use in awnings) and space to carry it plus guy ropes for when it’s windy.
A set-up like this Maxview Precision ID 75cm satellite dish will cost around £450 and enable you to get UK programmes as far south as Lyon in France. If you’re heading further south consider an 85cm roof-mounted dish.
Remember that you still need a receiver or smart tv with Freesat to use a portable satellite dish.
Stream TV via a Smartphone or Tablet
You could of course watch tv in a motorhome on your smartphone, pad or laptop. However, if you spend all your time squinting trying to see this, then you may prefer to stream to your motorhome tv.
It is not possible just to plug your smartphone or memory stick into your tv (I tried!). You need a device that de-codes the format of the programme in the correct way, or to download them in the correct format in the first place.
There are a number of smart phone accessories. An Apple Digital AV Adaptor like these below will connect your iPhone or iPad to the tv via an HDMI cable which is compatible with all the main streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Freeview Play, Now TV, Channel 4 All4 etc. This device mirrors what is on your screen.
You can also buy a three way version which is compatible with a USB-C port and will allow you to watch Sky Go from your laptop on your tv. Only buy the genuine Apple product as may of the cheaper versions do not work with all the apps available, or just don’t work at all!
There is also a version for use with Android smartphones, like this one below, which you can also use to display photos from an SD card on the tv.
Before you buy, make sure the device is compatible with your phone’s connection type and all the apps you want to use…not all devices are made equal and not all apps allow mirroring.
You could also consider Chromecast. This is a Google device which does a similar job as the Apple Digital AV Adaptor. It ‘casts’ what is on your laptop, phone or tablet to your tv. It is compatible with various streaming apps but, like the Apple device, has some restrictions and limitations.
All providers give you the opportunity to download or stream to your tv. However, not all providers are equal in how you can download and the number of programmes you can download and save for later. Not all providers allow you to download first and then watch on tv later and All4 will not let you mirror playback at all.
Amazon Prime allow you to stream a good number of episodes, at least a full box set, and watch on your tv later using mirroring. This is a great option for taking advantage of free wifi where you can and their service is the most consistent of all the providers.
TV via a Media Box or Stick
A media box or stick will effectively turn your motorhome 12v tv into a smart tv, with access to apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and so on. Which box or stick you choose will determine which apps you can access, not all makes have all apps and there are many, many boxes and sticks to choose from. Read the reviews carefully to ensure you are getting the right device for your needs.
The media box or stick is connected to your tv by an HDMI cable and needs to be linked wirelessly to your mi-fi device or tethered to your phone.
We recommend the Amazon Fire Stick which is easy to use and supports Prime Video, BBC iplayer, Netflix, ITV and All4. We think it’s by far the best option for UK tv.
Watching UK Terrestrial TV Abroad
If you want to stream or download UK terrestrial tv (BBC, ITV and Channels 4) from an app, you may need a VPN (virtual private network which disguises your location).
Take the following steps to determine whether your provider’s server is based in the UK;
- Type into Google ‘IP address’ (Internet protocol) and you will be provided with a unique four part number which relates to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and mobile or wifi connection.
- Copy this four part number and then type into Google ‘IP location’ and paste your four part number you just copied. This will tell you where the server providing your connection is based; if it’s in the UK then you will be able to access UK terrestrial tv without a VPN.
Whether your server is based in the UK will depend on your provider. If it’s a UK SIM this may well be the case, but check using the steps above. Using a SIM purchased overseas or the campsites wifi network will almost certainly require a VPN.
We have used Nord VPN seamlessly for years, which is why we recommend them. They have over 440 servers in the UK, so you can hop around if you need to. Occasionally BBC and All 4 have a purge and one of the server locations will not work, just move to another.
You can watch some services, like Netflix and Sky Go, abroad on tv in your motorhome without using a VPN. You might find with subscription services like Netflix that you are only able to access the programmes that are licensed to be shown in the country in which you are travelling.
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Streaming and watching tv eats your data. All the providers will share on their websites how much an hour of streaming uses and this ranges from around 600mb to 1gb per hour of SD (standard definition) streaming.
It is much higher if you stream HD but you can adjust the settings in most apps to stream SD. Take this into consideration when planning how much data you need overall. Our post on getting wifi and internet in a motorhome has more detailed info about data usage.
However you get telly in your motorhome, happy travels and happy viewing!